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Enjoy some pictures of the worldrecordtour, taken in Malaysia

 

Malaysia Map
First Trip
1993/94
Malaysia Map
Second Trip
2005

 

 
Map of Southeast Asia

 

 

 

 
click a picture to see details         

 

 

 

The 1’483 ft. high Petronas-Twintowers are the landmark of Kuala Lumpur …….
….… and the pride of the Malayan people
Kuala Lumpur’s TV tower (1’381 ft.),
is the 4th biggest of the world
 
Malaysia - a multiracial country
 
September 23rd, 2005:
Selamat Datang – Welcome to Malaysia
 
“I am really wondering how Malaysia has changed since our first visit in 1993/94”, reflects Emil as we leave behind the easy border formalities at Johor Bahru and park downtown for changing the remaining Singapore Dollars into Malaysian Ringgits. Both of us recognize a striking difference already within the first minutes: Today, many more women and girls are wearing headscarves, i.e. there are many more strict Moslems than eleven years ago. This impression gets even stronger in the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. In percentage, the Moslem population increased generally from then 40% to more than 50% now. The second most impressive novelty, which is obvious, is the incredible big number of new monumental constructions – from highways to huge shopping malls, from hotels to skyscrapers, from the 1’381 ft. high TV tower to the pride of the Malayan people – the 1’483 ft. high Petronas-Twintowers - the tallest in the world until Taiwan has taken over. What still remains the same are the immense palm oil plantations glittering in the sun that extend on both sides of the highway, the beautiful mosques with their high rising minarets, the richly decorated Hindu temples, the white sandy beaches and the impenetrable rain forest. No - we did not change our principle to explore countries thoroughly just because we are driving the 220 miles on the good, fast toll highway directly to Kuala Lumpur. It has its special reason: Our memories of all the visited beautiful places eleven years ago are still vivid and we want to keep it that way, avoiding eventual disillusionments. Nevertheless, we still want to include them in this report.

Different nations under one cover:
Moslems
Indians
Chinese
 

October 1993:
The Kota Tinggi waterfalls and Mersing at the South China Sea

We hardly trust our eyes as we approach the Kota Tinggi waterfalls 10 miles outside of Johor Bahru. From one moment to the other, we are surrounded by lush tropical scenery - by palm and banana leafs, bamboo and huge ferns, golden hibiscus flowers and pink orchids. And amidst all this exuberant vegetation, the untamed waters of the 112 ft. high cascade rush in two steps steeply downhill, forming two pools with wonderful clear water just ready to jump in. Are we not happy people to have discovered already on our first evening in this new country such an idyllic spot to set up camp? As night falls and the last screeches of the birds disappear, the jungle awakens with intensive sounds all over. They keep us company the whole night. Next morning we follow the narrow, bumpy road winding northwards. Apparently there are so many bends because the road construction companies are allowed to use the trees, which had to be cut to build a new road, and therefore they show little interest on a straight course. Endless palm oil, rubber and banana plantations, which are the main export products of the country, are passing by, interrupted now and then by a slowly flowing brownish jungle river. Once in a while, we spot a curious monkey sitting beside the road as we continue to Mersing, a city situated at the South China Sea. From there, passenger ferries operate daily to the small offshore island of Tioman – a little tropical but touristy paradise with long sandy beaches under a blue sky. We begin to dream. 1977 – during a short visit – we spent wonderful moments at this beautiful place and – despite of all contrary information – we do not want to accept yet that there is no car ferry crossing over. But unfortunately, in the picturesque port of Mersing with its exotic junks, our last glimmer of hope soon fades away definitely.

Bargaining at the bazaar in
front of the State Mosque
Liliana dressed according to the Islamic dress
code in the modern State Mosque of Kuala Lumpur
A vendor displays religious items
in the bazaar near the State Mosque
 

Downtown Mersing reveals the unique exotic charm of a busy and colorful Asian town. Elderly Chinese ladies walk through the streets with unemotional faces, protecting themselves with bright umbrellas against the burning sun. Teenagers on scooters, with headscarves and colorful helmets, rush up and down. Cars, rickshaws and a never-ending crowd of people push their way simultaneously between overloaded bazaars and noisy workshops and mingle with the glorious food stalls, which offer spicy Indian, Indonesian, Malay and tasty Chinese specialties. The food is too delicious and too inexpensive (around one US$ a meal with rice, meat and one vegetable) to even think of using our gas stove again. This “Asian face”, which is so completely new to us, absorbs us in such an extent that we totally forget that we have to look for a night camp. Only when the skies suddenly darken dramatically and heavy lightening is all around us, we get aware of it.

 

Display of the “fez” - the
Malayan head cover for men
Torches - made of bamboo
- attract visitors
A family packing sweets
into plastic bags
 

October 1993:
Our little paradise on the land of the Sultan of Johor Bahru and the East Coast


Already a few miles North of Mersing, we discover a picture book spot at the Sri Pantai Beach. Sea, palm trees and picnic tables. What a wonderful place! But our euphoria is not for long: Within seconds, we are attacked and tormented by thousands of tiny sand flies and then we discover also all the scattered garbage around us. This is definitely not what we are looking for – we move on. Shortly after, we follow an overgrown sandy track leading to a small meadow directly on the seashore with shady pandanus and palm trees. There is nobody around. Except of the splashing waves’ soft sound, there is absolute silence. What more do we want? Once in a while, the distant voice of a muezzin, calling for prayer, interrupts this tranquility. Just a few hundred steps away, we stumble over simple tombstones made of plain wood, clay and stone figures without any inscriptions, which is characteristic for a Moslem cemetery. Islam is the official religion in Malaysia. But thanks to the freedom of religion, also Hindus, Buddhist and Christians live side-by-side in tolerance and harmony. According to the state law, senseless quarreling can be punished with imprisonment.

 

Cultural event at the TV tower
View from the 8th floor of our
room in the AnCasa Hotel to the
illuminated Maybank Tower …….
....... and the TV Tower just beside,
with one of the Petronas-Twintowers
in the background
 

In our neighborhood, we find the clean Matahari bungalows owned by Linda , a Malay and Tom, an American. They are tiny and there is just enough space for a double bed. The atmosphere in the small family business is spontaneous and friendly. We enjoy to visit them in the cool evening breeze and to listen to their interesting stories regarding laws and customs. Apparently Malays of Chinese origin are not allowed to buy every land. They do not have the same rights as their brothers and sisters of Islamic Malayan descent. “Do you want to play Robinson for a few days”, Tom asks us suddenly with a twinkle in his eyes. He points offshore, to the small rock of uninhabited land. “I will ferry you over there with only the most essential items for survival”, he smiles. “And what if something happens and we have to be rescued”, we ask. “Then you give me a sign with the storm light I will leave with you, and I will fetch you immediately” he tries to brush aside our worries. “No thank you Tom, we already found our own little paradise!” we disappoint him. Later, when we return to our camp at sunset, the way is lighted with many little fires smoldering under coconut shells to chase away the tormenting insects. The leafs of the palm trees are dancing in the wind, the air smells of sea, salt and algae – our “Robinson life” is as perfect a s it can be on this small piece of land, which apparently belongs to the Sultan of Johor. At the moment, we would not swap it for anything else in the world.

 

Sweeping view over Kuala Lumpur’s skyline from the platform of the TV Tower

to the sloped roof of the Telecom Tower
to one of the Petronas-Twintowers
and “our” orange colored AnCasa Hotel
 
Every day is getting stickier and muggier and the hourly tropical downpours remind us that the monsoon is rapidly approaching. It is time for us to head further North. One morning, we say good-bye not without sadness to our little paradise and stop for one more time at an abandoned building - which apparently was once a nightclub with Thai girls of the oldest profession - to fill up our drinking water and to take a shower. Then we hit the road again. Rainforest and charming untouched villages with wooden canoes floating on the river, bungalow settlements in tropical surroundings, battered wooden houses on stilts and little busy shops along the road - all are passing by. Under a shady tree in front of a hut, a family is plucking headless chickens. Two huge bags of cleaned poultry are already leaning on one side of the tree, ready for sale. On the other side, chicken in a much too small cage are cackling nervously - and this is by no means for no reason!

It is a holiday, the birthday of the Sultan of Pahang, when we visit the impressive state mosque and the lovely bays of the Chempedak beach in Kuantan, before we continue along the now unattractive East Coast booming with dreary hotel complexes. And still we encounter many more attention-grabbing billboards announcing future projects. We are looking desperately for a quiet beach in this commercialized coastal area. Also finding a secluded nightspot is extremely difficult – there are small settlements all over. Where can we spend the night? Finally, we have no other choice then to park our car between the bushes next to simple houses on a busy beach. Most probably, we had just fallen asleep, when Emil wakes up from the cracking of branches and sees a head appearing right on my window. Without any warning, he hammers his fist with full force against my window screen and screams terrifyingly, making me jump up with my heart beating like crazy. I just see the shadow of a man disappearing in the bushes. After this worrying intermezzo, we do not even think of going back to sleep again. For security reasons, it has always been and it always will be our policy to change our night place at such incidences. In a hurry, we pack together and drive away to the interior, where we have to content ourselves with a mosquito infested place for the few remaining sleeping hours.
 

The old Railway Station with its
many turrets has an appearance
of “1001-nights”
The white City Gate marks
the entry of Kuala Lumpur
View from the State Mosque
to the domes and turrets
of the Railway Station
 

October 1993:
Historic Malacca and the West Coast


The West Coast is calling – Malacca, once a flourishing trading post between East and West. The old quarter still teems with historic, carefully restored buildings from the past, when alternatively the Dutch, Portuguese and English ruled here. The most impressive example is the dominant “Stadthuys” in the Dutch colonial style. But also the Portuguese have left their distinguished traces on many of the remarkable monuments. But what we enjoy the most is the exotic mixture of richly decorated Hindu, Chinese and Buddhist temples, where in front of them florists “wave” skillfully white Jasmine blossoms, red roses and yellow asters into wonderful garlands, and where its delicate fragrance mingles with the sweet scent of incense. As soon as we leave the town behind us, we are back in rural scenery. Especially attractive are the traditional Malay houses - the two-storey wooden houses built on stilts with a big gable roof and a lofty veranda, looking very noticeable in the tropical environment. The steps leading to the veranda are made of multicolored tiles with distinguished motifs. Each of them is unique, and they all are somehow the showpiece of every house. It seems like a competition: Who has the nicest entrance?
As we approach the town of Klang, we see already from far the four deep blue minarets rising high towards the sky. They belong to the beautiful Shah Alam mosque, which can accommodate up to 16’000 people and claims to have the biggest dome of the world. A striking sight, as its setting is also on the shore of an artificial lake, fringed with coconut palms and an abundance of frangipani flowers.

 

The colonial style building of
Sultan Abdul Samad by day .......
……. and by night glittering in the
glow of a thousand lights …….
….… and contrasting against the new
modern glass palaces in the background
 

September 23rd, 2005:
Kuala Lumpur with a touch of “1001-nights”


As we integrate into the heavy traffic towards Kuala Lumpur, our sweat is running continuously. Luck has it that already on our second day we meet Peggy and Philippe – she Malay, he Swiss. When they realize that we are sleeping in our car, Peggy suddenly comes up with an idea: “Do you not want to stay for a change in a hotel instead of sleeping in your car in this heat? I know the director of a first class hotel in the heart of downtown and can try to get a good price for you.” Firstly, we are not so keen to spend any money for a hotel accommodation. But after a while, we find the proposal not anymore so objectionable. Why not, if the rate is acceptable, and tomorrow is anyway my birthday? It just needs one single phone call to weaken us. Everything seems to be attractive – safe parking for our car in the basement, an air-conditioned room with TV, fridge and coffee making possibility sounds good too, and the price of US$24 per day - including a rich breakfast buffet - is acceptable [much to Emil’s regret though, there is neither cheese (cheese products are not a very common sight in Southeast Asia) nor ham (pork products are mostly not available in public restaurants due to Islam)]. We check in the same evening into room No. 802 on the 8th floor of the AnCasa Hotel, with a wonderful sight to the “jewels in the sky” – the TV tower and to one of the two impressive Petronas-Twintowers. Moreover we receive free wireless internet from the opposite Starbucks Coffee. This very comfortable accommodation suits us so far also, as we intend to scan around 1’600 slides, which we had sent after us five months ago from Switzerland to French Guiana. But they never reached its destination as long as we were in the region. It was hard to accept that they might have been lost on the way. Many weeks later, we received one of our happiest emails: Our friend Xavier in Cayenne informed us that our “treasure” has just arrived and is now on his desk. He forwarded it by DHL to Singapore.

 

A city of tents has been set up for a few
hours at the Merdeka-Square for meals
and hampers for the handicapped and low
income people; around 5’000 attended
A family on a motorbike ride
One of the many colorful corners
in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown
 

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is a charming city with Moorish and English colonial style buildings. It is like wandering around in a wonderful open-air museum. Between all the high-rise buildings, there is always something new to discover - traditional, historic or modern. One of the most fascinating sight is the historic colonial town, where suddenly in the middle of glass palaces an oriental building with arcades, domes and countless small minarets in shining white, emerges. In its appealing architecture, it looks like a palace of 1001-nights, but it is the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. But also the oldest mosque of the town, the Masjid Jamek, perched at the confluence of the Klang- and Gombak-Rivers - the place of the first settlement – is not less enchanting. And at night - directly from our hotel window - we can admire again the silvery face of the magnificent Petronas-Twintowers and the many lights of the world’s fourth tallest TV tower, which contrast wonderfully against the dark night sky. We always enjoy walking through the lively and busy streets changing constantly from Chinese, Indian to Arab flair - it is an experience of different worlds under the same hat. Luckily, we have to use our car only rarely, as the traffic in Kuala Lumpur is not only chaotic but also difficult. There is no accurate street map available, all seem to be immediately outdated due to the enormous construction boom. It can easily happen that we find ourselves suddenly on a city-leaving highway. I really admire my brave “driver” who can cope so easily with this really demanding left-hand traffic despite of the many one-way streets and the bans to make a right- or U-turn.

 

During Deepavali, Indian families in their
festive outfit gather for prayer at the
Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu-Temple
The Sri Maha Mariamman
Hindu-Temple is packed
with impressive statues
Lovely scene of gods on a
wall in the Sri Maha Mariamman
Hindu-Temple
 

November 1993:
Batu Caves - a famous Hindu Shrine


The bluish, smelly smoke from countless scooters, which take up the lead at a red light and speed away simultaneously when it becomes green, stings in our eyes, as we head for the Batu Caves, a famous Hindu Shrine, just 8 miles outside the capital. Through a richly decorated portal, we make our way through 272 steep steps to the 120 million years old cave set within a cool limestone outcrop, where Indian women in colorful Saris and brow skinned Sikhs in their intriguing turbans make the offerings to their gods. Suddenly, a close ear-deafening gunshot interrupts the stillness. What was that? Worried we look around us only to discover with a smile that a guardian is chasing away the peaceful doves on the square, which foul the holy place. They remember us to St. Peter’s Square in Venice. There is just one thing that we regret today – that we are not here at the right time when the annual Thaipusam Festival – one of the most important religious celebrations of the Hindu’s - takes place each January/February, which is said to attract around 800’000 devotees. It must be amazing to see their masochistic-looking rituals when some of them walk in trance with spikes through their cheeks and tongs to their gods.

 

Adorned with fresh jasmine flowers in
the hair for the Deepavali Festival,
which is celebrated as the triumph of
good over evil, or light over darkness
Exotic Indian beauties
Her hands are decorated with Henna.
Henna is used since centuries in
India and the Middle East as a
mean for adornments
 

November 1993:
Escape to the cool highland, a river camp and start towards the North


The scoring heat of the last days brings most of the activities in the valleys to a standstill and many people have the same aim as we have today – the cooler Genting Highlands on an altitude of 5815 ft. Already the drive itself through lush green fern trees, dense forest and flowering orchids is relaxing and refreshing. But what many visitors are attracted to is the exclusive casino with its tempting air-conditioned gambling halls. The prospect to cool us down makes us heading straight away to the entry too. And, who knows, today might just come our lucky hour? We hardly can believe when the resolute watchman refuses to let us in – wearing short sleeves we are not dressed properly enough and therefore not allowed in. Any arguing is wasted time; he insists that this is the rule. His stubbornness gets on our nerves so much that we rather give it a miss than to change our cloths. Instead, we take the chance to wander around the extensive theme park surrounding it, before we dive from the coolness back into the tropical heat again. And before the day ends, it becomes nevertheless our lucky day. Shortly before Kuala Kubu Bahru, we discover a secluded piece of land at a quiet mountain river. Huge, colorful butterflies fly around us and exotic flowers bloom everywhere. At the river embankment, we are thrilled to spot the rare, “carnivorous Pitcher Plant”, which with its sweet nectar lures insects into its “urn” and closes the lid, once the victim is entangled.

 

Garlands of fresh flowers are
skillfully made and sold in
front of every Hindu Temple
One of the richly sculptured
corners in the interior
of the Hindu Temple
During Deepavali celebrations, families
decorate often their homes with flowers.
Beautiful bouquets are sold all over
 

Laundering in the quiet river, drying the clothes between tropical showers, cleaning and reorganizing our car’s content, repairing the exhaust pipe with empty tin cans, writing letters to relatives and friends, tanning and bathing, reading - just relaxing, cooking something and enjoying a beer – from one day it becomes two, then four and then eight. Besides the daily visit of an always-hungry dog, we have the whole idyllic site completely to ourselves. Only on the weekend it gets busy with people who park their cars here and then cross the river with their backpacks and ropes to climb to the jungle cascades, which are about an hour walking distance away. One night, heavy tropical rain pours on our car roof and changes our usually peacefully running river in the shortest of time into a gigantic, wildly roaring monster. Until the morning, the water level rises alarmingly and soon escapes its bed. Where yesterday we bathed joyfully and did laundry, masses of brown water, uprooted trees and broken branches make their way downstream - an enormous and at the same time terrifying spectacle of the nature. But as quick as it started, as fast it stops again. Mid-afternoon, the eerie cloud formations disappear suddenly, the high water level decreases and the hot sun absorbs slowly also the mist. Only from the giant, evergreen treetops it continues to drip.

Everything became extremely humid inside our LandCuriser, thus we decide to move further North to the Sam Poh Tong Cave Temples near Ipoh, nestling between bizarre limestone formations. Immediately we get swept away by its beauty – by the tiny pagodas, playful pavilions sitting between lovely ponds, the turtle basin standing for luck and the elaborated entrances, cut into the rock. Impressive Buddha’s and altars overloaded with offerings decorate this holy place. A similar wonderful sight is the Perak Tong Cave Temple with its beautiful wall paintings, which was built in 1926 by a Chinese monk. Most impressive are the over 40 oversized Buddha’s which throne between stalactites and stalagmites. Its masterpiece - the sitting Buddha - is 42 ft. tall. 385 steep steps inside the cave bring us finally to the top of the hill, from where we have a beautiful view over the fertile valley and the smoking tin-mine chimneys – a sign of the rich tin-mining activity.

 

The modern Putra Mosque with its pink
dome is the “jewel” of the new govern-
ment seat in Putrajaya, built 20 miles
outside of Kuala Lumpur. It can accom-
modate up to 10’000 worshippers
The Perdana Putra complex
next to the mosque is the new
government seat in futuristic Putrajaya
One of the modern, newly
built bridges in Putrajaya
 

November 1993:
Holiday island of Penang and heading towards the Thailand border


The more than eight miles long bridge, once the third longest of the world, connects the holiday island of Penang with the tropical mainland. Our first impression of this holiday destination is not very impressive – high rise buildings of hotel resorts make any car access to the white sandy beaches practically impossible. There is absolute no chance for us to find a spot near the seashore, where we could camp. Disappointed, we decide to follow a narrow track, which winds its way through impenetrable rainforest towards the hilltop. But there is no way to pull out at any time; all other tracks, even the overgrown ones, lead to houses. In the pale evening light, we finally reach the highest peak of the island and enjoy the sight of palm trees stretching straight down to the sea. But also here, there is no way to spend the night. It is almost dark and we have surrounded nearly the whole island, when we finally discover a forest clearance along the road close to the Teluk Bahang beach, where we decide to park for the night. It is magic to see the flashing of the many fire flies in the trees, which we first wrongly take for torches. Or were there also some flashlights around? Some days later, we suddenly start to question it when we talk to a local family we meet at the beach and ask them where they live. Much to our embarrassment they reply: “We are your neighbors – we live not far from your night camp!” And we were so absolutely convinced that we were “perfectly hidden”!

 

On a sightseeing tour in Putrajaya
with our LandCruiser
A tropical flower at the road side .......
….... and a monkey on a tree
 

The Chinese charm of Georgetown, Penang’s capital, is everywhere and the splendor of the many Far East temples is enormous. Bold Buddhist monks are praying and singing to the many gods of the Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam on the foot of the Penang Hills, as we arrive. One monk is writing the names of visitors in Chinese on tiles, which will be then used in future buildings – of course against a small contribution. We are standing in front of the biggest Buddhist pagoda in Southeast Asia. The seven-storey, 100 ft. tall pagoda of the 10’000 Buddha – is a mixture of Chinese, Thai and Burmese architecture showing beautiful exotic details. We proclaim it “our” most beautiful holy site in this city, although more marvelous temples are spread all over– so also the Thai Wat Chayamangkalaram with its 108 ft. long sleeping Buddha, the third biggest lying Buddha in the world. He is flanked by two dozens of golden deities. The hills of Penang are covered in dark clouds, as the car ferry carries us back to the mainland and we take the highway towards Thailand. Soon, fertile, lush carpets of rice fields in different growth reach to the horizon – a beautiful sight. Farmers with wide hats are standing knee-deep in the water, cultivating with bended backs their fields. Evening is approaching, and the sun starts already to disappear with an intensive red fireball behind Langkawi Island, when we finally reach a beach at low tide, where local people are digging for shells. It is just the perfect place to spend the night. And for me as a passionate shell collector, this shell-covered beach is a big temptation, much to Emil’s distress though, as they are filling more and more our already heavily overloaded LandCruiser!

 

Lush green tea plantations
in the Cameron Highlands
This family of aborigines sells fruits
along the road to the Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands are still
surrounded with hills covered with jungle
 
January 1994:
Returning from Thailand – heading South again through the less touched Northeast


Due to the extremely heavy monsoon rains of this year, over a hundred land slides have damaged very hardly the winding mountain road from the Thailand border town of Betong to Kota Bharu in the most conservative province Kelantan. Everywhere, road repair work is on the way and for security reasons, even driving in the night is prohibited. Dams and dense forest are the main attractions on our way South. Shortly before we reach the tourist resort of Banding on the Temengor Lake, we discover with dismay that oil is leaking from the rear axle what means that its shaft is worn out. We need a spot to replace it - there is no way we can continue for long. Once again we are very lucky: Not far away, we discover in the woods at the lakeshore a still unbroken and not yet overgrown concrete base of a demolished house. It is just what we need - we could not have found a better site to camp. While we replace a new axle, we are surrounded by a wealth of jungle noises. And at night, we hear the cracking of branches from wild pigs roaming through the bushes. Unfortunately, we do not manage to see wild elephants, which – according to a warning sign – should come here to drink.
 

View from the pavilion of the
Sam Poh Tong Caves to the
tin mining town of Ipoh
The Batu Caves, a Hindu shrine, are located
in a huge limestone outcrop and reached
by 252 steep steps. During the famous
Thaipusam Festival, there are incredible
scenes of masochism
Temple caves of Sam Poh Tong
in the South of Ipoh
 

Next morning, two 4x4 vehicles arrive and two well-dressed Chinese businessmen start to load carefully bundled bamboo sticks, which we have seen lying along the seashore. Then they wait – what for? All at a sudden, small fishing boats with short men of dark skin, curly hair and flat noses – remembering us in a way the aborigines of Australia – come ashore, bringing more material from the forest. They are Orang Aslis, Malaysia’s aboriginals, living in the forests surrounding the dam. While their merchandise is exchanged against diesel, food and other items, we keep low profile at distance. Trading this way, still about 3’000 living Orang Aslis get the essential necessities for their life, which the jungle cannot provide. Apparently, the government wanted to force their dislocation several times, but this “people of nature” always returned to their beloved world and their natural way of life again.
Screaming monkeys from the other seashore awaken us next morning. Suddenly a motorbike with two guys is speeding straightaway towards us. “Might we get troubles?” One is a policeman, who introduces himself as “Smile” (nickname for Ismail), what he practices widely. The other one is the owner of the fishing company, on which private property we apparently are camping and for which we would have needed a permit. Of course, they want an explanation, why we are staying here already for days. Luckily both of them are kind: “It is not a problem at all”, they explain us in pretty good English. “We only wanted to check, who you are”. Still, for us it is a little hint that it is time to move on – towards Kota Bharu.

 

Sunset over tropical Langkawi
Island near Kuala Perlis
Our idyllic camping spot on a
jungle river near Kota Kubu Bahru
The rare “carnivorous Pitchers Plant”
uses its sweet nectar to lure insects
to its “urn” and closes the lid once
the victim is entangled
 

February 1994:
Kota Bharu and the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands


The roofed central market of Kota Bharu spreads a range of bright colors and strange smells, engaging all our senses. The rich choice of products is a delight for our eyes: Mountains of red chili, green vegetables fresh from the fields, tropical fruits like guava, mango, papaw, pineapples and rambutan, mixed with exotic spices, roots, fresh fish and all kinds of agricultural products. Not only is their display on the long wooden counters colorful, but also the Moslem women in their special outfit, who are sitting in the middle of their foodstuff and have also the reputation of being very smart doing business.
Tobacco fields with huge, thick leafs are the main sight on our way South. Again and again, small roads branch off to remote, lonely sandy beaches. We take many of them, but stay at none. With their dilapidated straw huts, the huge quantity of garbage floating ashore, the steady heavy waves, dense salt-water spray and the persistent strong wind, they are not very inviting. Despite of that, always groups of youngsters - curious scooter drivers – follow and approach us – day and night. In Rantau Abang in Terengganu we visit the breeding place of the giant turtles, which come ashore between May and September. It is rather a disappointing sight – nothing has an original appearance anymore. New bungalows have been built for turtle watching, and as a result kept away more and more of these sea creatures which are close to distinction.

 

The Ubudiah Mosque in Kuala Kangsar
has the reputation to be the most
beautiful mosque in Malaysia
Rice field in Perlis with an
approaching thunderstorm
The four minarets of the Sultan
Salahuddin State Mosque in Shah Alam
are visible already from far
 

The Cameron Highlands with their lush green tea plantations in different stages are our last station of this Asian country. They are named after the British land surveyor William Cameron, who discovered them in 1885. Today they are one of the worldwide most famous cultivation regions of Ceylon tea. Since generations, the labors are dark skinned Indians and Tamils from Sri Lanka. The young women pickers with their huge baskets tied to the back give lovely, colorful “spots” in the huge green fields. Along the way, under a canopy of shady palm leafs, a local family sells the “king of fruit”, the spiky Durian, which smells awfully (like old rotten cheese), but is appreciated as a delicacy. Yes, we tried it, but it is definitely not our favorite taste. Because of its disturbing smell, this fruit is neither allowed in subways nor in many hotel rooms. The sign: ”No Durian allowed” is also placed in front of our hotel elevator in Kuala Lumpur.

 

The colorful central market in the
Islamic town of Kota Bharu in
Northeastern Kelantan
Pagoda on the Genting Highlands
Chinese Gate marking the entrance
to the Genting Highlands
 

October 2005:
Swiss Club of Malaysia and the Toyota LandCruiser Club of Malaysia


It is Friday, September 30th, 6.30 pm, as we wait in our LandCruiser in the practically standing traffic from our hotel in Kuala Lumpur to the Euro Deli-Grillrestaurant. But not only the traffic jam is enormous; equally enormous is the sudden appearance of the silvery gleaming Petronas-Twintowers against the dark night sky. The many garden restaurants and bars along the lovely, with countless red lanterns decorated streets, are bursting with happy people. We, ourselves, have another, very special occasion to be on the road at night with our own car: Mr. Thomas Stalder of the Swiss Consulate organized a gathering at the Swiss Club, and our LandCruiser and we are the “special guests”. Of course, we feel very privileged and extremely honored that also our Ambassador is among the many guests. And when we spot “sausage and cheese salad” on the menu card - one of our earlier most favorite home dishes - our eyes start to shine even more intensively. The evening is long, very interesting and very animated, and midnight is over before we can talk to each one personally. Before everybody leaves, we take the chance to explain our “house” and are taken totally by surprise when Thomas Stalder presents us an attractive “certificate” for a tank filling of our LandCruiser. What a great gesture - thank you very much indeed, Swiss Club of Malaysia! The heavy traffic has eased when we return to our hotel and slip tired, but happy about the lovely hours with our countrymen, into our white, clean sheets.

 

Traditional junk in the port of
Mersing in the South China Sea
Our little camping paradise at Tanjong Resang
North of Mersing at the East Coast
Palm fringed river on the East Coast
of the peninsula of Malaysia
 

Two weeks later, again on a Friday, we experience another fortunate day in Malaysia. We find ourselves in relaxed company with members of the Toyota LandCruiser Club, enjoying a delicious Chinese lunch in a restaurant near their clubhouse. They all have an adventurous spirit, having made many overland expeditions with their team - sponsored by the Malaysian oil company Petronas. Of course, we have a lot of common ground to talk about and one afternoon is not enough. Therefore, Charley, the president, invites us spontaneously to the Renaissance Hotel for a dinner in style together with other club members and their spouses. Without knowing it, he coincidentally hits the date of our 21st Travel Anniversary. At some point, we mention it, with the result that for desert we get a delicious birthday cake “21 years on the run…” , offered by the hotel management. But this is only the beginning. The LandCruiser Club makes the first steps to rejuvenate our “travel beaten “companion. During the following days, he gets a new muffler and some bodywork done. And we have the chance to spend many more interesting hours in their company, either in Stivens 4x4 Shoppe & Service place – which is also their clubhouse - or in the Chinese Restaurant with the delicious food. Steven, the club’s secretary, one day chokes: “Are we actually a 4x4-Club or an Eating Club!”

 

Pavilion of Kek Lok Si Temple in
Georgetown – the main town
on the island of Penang
In the interior of the Kek Lok Si
temple in Georgetown
on the island of Penang
Liliana passing through the gate of the
Kek Lok Si Temple in Georgetown
on the island of Penang
 

We always seem to find a new reason why we have to postpone our departure from Kuala Lumpur, which we enjoyed in many ways. First, we wanted to finish our mega job of scanning over 1’600 slides and have more bodywork done on our LandCruiser. Then, on November 1st, Deepavali, the Indian Festival of Lights, is holding us back, and two days later it is Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the end of the Ramadan, the Moslem fasting month. Then we still want to visit Putrajaya, the new government seat. It is an overwhelming sight with its pompous palaces of different architecture spread over a vast area, surrounded by beautifully manicured and flowering gardens, lakes and hypermodern and “royal” bridges. In some parts, the oriental details transfer us into deep Arabia, which for us always has its fascination. But as it is with Brasilia, the new capital of Brazil, it is sterile, lacks of life and is a kind of a ghost town where nobody really wants to live. Many people are of the opinion that it is just a prestige object and a waste of money. When we return to our AnCasa Hotel in the evening, our hearts open up again. This region is the place where we experience and enjoy the real Malaysian life at its most - the colorful melting pot of Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures with their distinctive food, smell and sound. And it is from here that we shall treasure our most intensive moments of Malaysia.

 

A traditional ox chart along
a street in Malacca
Typical features of a traditional Malacca
house are the big gable roof and the
tiled steps leading to an airy veranda
Fishing Village of Kuala Perlis
on the West Coast near the
border of Thailand
 

Before a new reason pops up on the horizon, we definitely give us a kick to start running our shut down “machine” again: On November 11th, we continue towards Thailand. We certainly do not mind to leave behind the enormous air pollution, the constant stop and go traffic and especially also the unbearable heat. But we definitely will miss the hearty contact to our new friends Peggy and Philippe, who made so many positive things happen and cared so much for us. We will also miss our supportive Embassy and the generous Toyota LandCruiser Club. And last, but not least we are also sad to say good-by to our extended luxury life in the 1st class AnCasa Hotel with the rich breakfast buffet, the fresh orchids on the table, the daily new sheets, the newspaper delivered to our room, the central location and over all the friendly staff, who made us feel so wonderfully at home. Thanks to the generous Manager, who at the beginning of Ramadan – the Moslem holy month – offered us a free stay of two weeks and extended it step by step, we were allowed to enjoy all the comfort for over a month.

Selamat tinggal! – Good-bye! Who knows, we might come back again!

 

October 18th, 2005:
Celebration of our 21st Travel
Anniversary in the Renaissance Hotel
together with members of the
LandCruiser Club of Malaysia …….
….... the birthday cake
"21 years on the run ...." .......
….... and the happy „crazy“ travelers
after having driven within 15'800
driving hours nearly 370'000 miles
through 150 different countries